The Life Sciences Industry Is Rapidly Expanding in Westchester

© Courtesy of Regeneron

Westchester offers a growing market for careers in the life sciences industry as a leading region in the nation for the field.

Westchester County is home to many leading life sciences employers, including Hawthorne-based Clarapath, which manufactures robotic instruments to create tissue sample slides, and Tarrytown-based Regeneron, which develops a range of life-saving medicines.

Westchester County has grown into one of the nation’s leading regions for life sciences and biotechnology firms. Geography plays a big part in that, because Westchester is uniquely situated for success in this rewarding field, where employees at any level can be part of the work of producing life-saving medicines and technologies.

“[Westchester] sits centrally and can pull from a diverse employment base,” says Eric Feinstein, CEO of Clarapath, a Hawthorne-based company that manufactures robotic instruments to create tissue sample slides for pathology studies. Sandwiched between New York and New Jersey’s strong tech and pharmaceutical concerns and Connecticut’s history in the defense sector, firms have a robust pipeline of workers nearby.

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“We pull people from everywhere,” Feinstein says. And the region is already a hotbed of healthcare. “We are embedded within the ecosystems of health, pharma, medical centers like Westchester Medical Center, and all the regional hospitals, all located where we are,” he says.

life sciences
© Courtesy of Regeneron

The life sciences industry continues to grow, along with a strong, competitive job market. “It is common for job candidates to have multiple job offers, making it a priority for employers to have a strong value proposition to attract the best talent. In 2022, we saw a trend of layoffs in the technology sector, which have expanded our talent pools in life sciences and enabled us to examine transferable skills and candidates’ future potential,” says Gina Thomas, vice president, talent acquisition for Regeneron, the pharmaceutical developer based in Tarrytown.

She says the company’s greatest need for new talent is in the areas of research, pre-clinical development, and manufacturing. “These roles may include scientists, chemical engineers, and mechanical engineers with bachelor, master’s, and/or doctorate degrees, along with seven to 15 years of experience,” she says.

But there are also roles for candidates who do not have a four-year degree, “such as those that support our facilities and warehouses, as well as certain laboratory technicians.”

Take for example chemical technicians, who help scientists conduct laboratory tests. Entry-level pay in the Hudson Valley is $45,250, and the job only requires an associate’s degree. Openings are projected to grow 15% by 2028, according to the New York Department of Labor.

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lab work
© Courtesy of Clarapath

If employees do want to pursue a higher academic degree, “we have a tuition reimbursement program that allows employees to advance their education, no matter the role they are in,” she says.

Room for Growth, Opportunities to Solve Problems

Working in the life sciences has enormous practical applications and gives workers the chance to make real change in peoples’ lives. “At Regeneron, we have the incredible opportunity to translate science to medicine for people with serious diseases,” Thomas says. The work also offers room for personal growth. “Our employees have access to state-of-the-art technology and cutting-edge science. They have exposure to leadership and a culture of innovation, opportunities to grow and learn, and a competitive benefits and compensation package,” she says.

In fact, the innovative nature of life sciences means that new opportunities arise all the time, says Salomon Amar, vice president for research at New York Medical College in Valhalla, where the BioInc@NYMC incubator for biotech startups is located. “That’s what is interesting about biotech entrepreneurs — at the core, these individuals paved the way for their own new job titles and new endeavors that didn’t previously exist.”

lab work
© Courtesy of Regeneron

Most life sciences firms need to take a multi-faceted approach to identifying and nurturing a pool of talent, so that they maintain a strong candidate pipeline when roles become available. For Thomas and Regeneron, this includes marketing its “employee value proposition” on business platforms like LinkedIn, “building talent communities of people with relevant skill sets and leveraging our networks and employee referrals. We also fill many roles from within Regeneron to support employee career growth,” she says.

“In 2022, we saw a trend of layoffs in the technology sector, which have expanded our talent pools in life sciences and enabled us to examine transferable skills and candidates’ future potential.”
—Gina Thomas, Vice President, Talent Acquisition, Regeneron

Clarapath isn’t as large as Regeneron, but it has similar needs. “We are always looking for high-quality workers,” says Feinstein. That runs the gamut from hourly workers to well-trained tradespeople to “almost every engineering discipline,” he says.

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When it comes to the manufacturing side of the business, a degree isn’t always a crucial element, Feinstein says. “Some of our best performers don’t have a college degree but are unbelievably good with their hands, building things. They are practical and logical in problem-solving in manufacturing and production.” Machinists, for example, are needed to manufacture the one-of-a-kind parts needed to make the products.

On the technology and software side of the life sciences, “we are always looking for software developers,” he says. That skillset “has been on a wild ride the last couple of years,” he notes, as tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Amazon have been laying off thousands of workers. That has actually been a plus for companies like Clarapath, which now has a bigger pool of “the best software development talent in robotics,” he says. “We obviously don’t have a balance sheet like Amazon or Google, but a lot of employees had offers from bigger companies but have chosen us, because there is something bigger here. This is real, this is impactful, this makes a difference in people’s lives.”

Along with competitive pay and perks, smaller firms like his offer something else. “This is a tightly knit, family organization,” he says. “We expect employees to give their best every day, and you are given responsibilities you would never get at a big company. You can excel in ways that are never possible otherwise, and if you can handle the responsibility, you get more. There is always the ability to professionally grow. It’s never boring. That is the nature of a startup.”

Related: Needed: Workers With Technical Skills in Westchester

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